In a recent turn of events, a gesture of recognition in the Canadian Parliament has stirred a whirlwind of controversy and calls for resignation. The controversy revolves around the recognition of Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian Canadian, during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address to Parliament. Hunka was introduced by Speaker Anthony Rota as a “Ukrainian hero” and a “Canadian hero,” resulting in a standing ovation in the House of Commons.
However, over the weekend, it emerged that Hunka had served in the Nazi SS Galizien formation during World War II. This revelation has prompted Poland’s Education Minister, Przemysław Czarnek, to take steps towards Hunka’s possible extradition to Poland. Hunka had been part of the First Ukrainian Division, also known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division, a voluntary unit under the command of the Nazis.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Arif Virani stated that he cannot comment on the extradition move as no request has been received from the Polish government.
Speaker Anthony Rota has publicly apologized to the House for inviting Hunka and introducing him during the President’s address, acknowledging that the decision was entirely his own. Calls for Rota’s resignation continue to mount in the wake of this controversy, although he has not indicated any intention to step down.
The Bloc Québécois has requested a meeting with Rota and other House leaders, describing Hunka’s invitation as causing “a crisis of confidence without precedent” in the House of Commons. The meeting is expected to address the growing concerns surrounding this incident.
As the controversy unfolds, the fate of Speaker Rota’s position remains uncertain. The incident has shed light on the complexities of recognizing individuals with controversial pasts and the potential diplomatic repercussions of such recognitions in a global context.